Istanbul enchants, delights, excites and calms. The multiple layers of this city can never be peeled in one visit. We recommend more trips as we try to decode its vibrant and ethnic nature
By: Aparupa Ray Ganguly, Hospitality Communication Professional
Posted on: August 25, 2012
Istanbul enchants, delights, excites and calms. The multiple layers of this city can never be peeled in one visit. We recommend more trips as we try to decode its vibrant and ethnic nature.
Turkey’s definitive hot spot could be no where else other than Istanbul. It’s where Moorish meets Modern. Sophisticated and suave, Istanbul doesn’t fail to dazzle you with its understated charm. And Turkey’ favorite cosmopolitan jaunt couldn’t leave you asking for more! This city offers an intriguing mix of opulence and history that coexists harmoniously with its contemporary facets.
Peppered with opulent mansions, mosques, Byzantine churches and steamy hamams, Istanbul reverberates with romance and culture. Its fascinating history is absorbing and deeply engaging. Home to the relics of the grand Ottoman, Byzantine and Roman eras, it exudes an aura that is unforgettable. The remnants of a glorious past are enwrapped in a chic, fashionable and hip spirit of modern times. As the aircraft slowly glided over the Black Sea, encircling the city of Istanbul, I was mesmerized with the beauty of its stunning mosques and minarets, floating under blue skies, almost like a fable.
My trip to Istanbul was quite an eye-opener. It definitely commanded a huge change of perception. Istanbul is in the midst of a cultural revival and I could distinctly sense it in the air. It is almost like the whole city is breathing at ease and booming with activity, galvanized by its wealth. As I walked around the streets, the transformation of a grand, old heritage city to a cool lifestyle precinct seemed evident. The cascading effect is most pronounced on the city’s art and dining scene. Istanbul is home to a few good gallery spaces that propagate contemporary Turkish art.
Fulcrum of action
If you are in the mood to party all night long, Beyoglu is where all the action is. Bang in the heart of Istanbul, rests the edgy and fun Beyoglu is home to some of the hippest night clubs and boutiques in town, and is the true epitome of modern Istanbul. Don’t even consider an early night! Bouncing with life, it just beckons you to stay on. Join all the happy, bohemian souls that throng the numerous cafes and pubs on the Istiklal Street.
The Real Istanbul
Having heard a lot about Sultanahmet (the old part of Istanbul), I was very curious to explore my way through its bylanes. And that is exactly what I did the next day - I planned to discover the real Istanbul! Home to the city’s iconic Blue mosque and the dramatic Ancient Roman Hippodrome or the Hagia Sophia, a great Byzantine architectural masterpiece, Sultanahmet had much more to offer. There is something ancient about this area. It seems caught in a time warp, lazily waking up to frenzy of the fast-paced city surrounds.
The stunning jewel
Amongst all those random memories of the city, the one that keeps lingering on my mind is the stunning Bosphorous strait - arguably the most romantic feature of Istanbul and the ultimate indulgence to your senses. A cruise down the Bosphorous calls for spectacular sights of the Topkapi Palace and grand Ottoman style villas of the rich and the famous. The shore comes alive with a host of cafes and restaurants that are pulsating with action. As the azure waters gently lap the banks, the Bosphorous looks its best at twilight, dressed in a deep crimson hue. After a long day’s walk, hop onto a tram and get down at Kabatas. Head to any of the numerous cafes scattered on the banks, curl up on a chair with a book and soak in the fresh scented air as the seagulls take flight.
Luxury vagabonds are spoilt for choice in Istanbul. Amongst many hotels which leave a lasting dent of a super-luxurious stay on your minds, The Four Seasons, Istanbul is my favourite. Set in a 19th century palace, the opulence and the grandeur of this resort hotel is unapologetic. Far from being subtle and understated, its glamourous, ornamental interiors make a bold statement. It also offers gorgeous views of the Bosphorous. If you choose to stay in the slick business district of Levent, The Istanbul Edition (a part of the JW Mariott group) is one hotel that sweeps you off your feet. Immaculately designed, it is meant for the hip and the stylish. The Ciragan Palace Kempinski, on the other hand, offers tastefully decorated rooms and suites, and is set in a fabulous, ornate Ottoman palace, offering the most stunning view of the Bosphorus again.
Travel is usually synonymous with shopping for many and neither will you be disappointed! Istanbul surely makes for a great luxe-shopping destination. The Megavizyon Store on Istiklal Street houses the largest collection of traditional and new age, contemporary Turkish music. You could spend hours browsing through the CDs. Blistore is another quirky lifestyle store that houses handpicked books, music and accessories. They also have a collection of super crispy white shirts designed by talented local designers. Amongst other secrets of a shopaholic, there is Haremlique, the one store that deserves more than a single visit. It sells beautiful Ottoman style home ware, authentic Turkish bath accessories and some exotic Turkish coffee. The California Nail Bar is a discovery purely meant for all my girlfriends! It is much more than just a nail salon. If you are in the mood for some pampering, head straight to this place!
Istanbul is a city that tempts you with its strong ethnic appeal, which complements its smooth European feel, thus making it very desirable. The seamless weave of the old and the new adds an element of wonder. When I left the city, I just had one thought in mind, “I am not done yet”!
A seasoned hospitality communication professional having experience with brands like The Imperial New Delhi, The Park Hotel and others, Aparupa comes with an unquenchable thirst for travel. She believes creativity is the ability to imagine something that never existed and travel fuels creativity. Eclectic and personalised, her frequent sojourns have spurned travelogues that are fresh and inspiring with a poetic narrative. Follow her on lovemy30s.wordpress.com